The temporomandibular joint plays a significant role in the day-to-day function of your mouth. Many people don’t know that this jaw joint is the leading cause of jaw pain or discomfort. If you experience persistent pain, or you can’t open or close your mouth completely, you may have a TMJ disorder. At Southern Surgical Arts in Tyler, TX, and Palestine, TX, our oral surgeons, Dr. Charles Stone, Dr. Brian Stone, and Dr. Wade Barker have years of experience diagnosing and treating disorders of the temporomandibular joint.
What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint, more commonly referred to as the TMJ or the jaw joint, is located at the back of the jawline, near the bottom of the ear. It connects the mandible, or lower jaw, to the temporal bone, a part of your skull. The TMJ has multiple functions: it is a hinge joint, which allows you to move your jaw up and down, and a sliding joint, which lets you move your jaw side to side. This unique combination makes your jaw extremely versatile, working with the muscles of your face to perform functions such as chewing, speaking, and breathing with ease.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
The unique positioning of this joint also makes it extremely susceptible to the development of joint disorders, which can cause significant pain or discomfort. If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, you may need to seek treatment for a TMJ disorder:
- Unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth
- Soreness or stiffness in and around the jaw muscles
- Frequent headaches or dizziness
- Hearing loss, ear pain, or ringing in the ears
- Difficulty or intense pain when chewing, yawning, or opening the mouth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Jaws that make popping or clicking sounds when opening the mouth
- Difficulty opening the mouth all the way
- Jaws locking or catching when opening and closing the mouth
TMJ disorders can develop for a variety of reasons. While the exact cause of a TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine, the following causes can all contribute to TMJ problems:
- Jaw, neck, or head injuries
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Displacement of the joint’s disk
If you experience any of these issues, it is important to see a specialist like an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for treatment. Our specialty training in the restoration of oral and facial function provides us with unique insight and experience into TMJ therapies, and we will work with you to develop the appropriate plan for treatment.
At Southern Surgical Arts, we treat temporomandibular joint disorders through both nonsurgical therapy and surgical intervention. When you visit our office for an initial consultation, we will determine the best course of treatment for your unique situation. First, we will perform a thorough examination and X-ray evaluation of your jaws and face. Many times, a general awareness of your behaviors and the appropriate self-care can help resolve the issue. Techniques such as resting your jaw, eating a soft food diet, using a night guard, and applying ice and heat to the joint are often very effective. When self-care alone cannot treat the TMJ disorder, we may recommend a surgical procedure to help you restore equilibrium to your bite.
Arthrocentesis is often the first surgical procedure recommended to restore normal function. In this procedure, your oral surgeon will enter the joint and insert a saline solution, which reduces inflammation and removes tissue breakdown products in the joint. Many patients choose to undergo this procedure under IV anesthesia and can complete the entire treatment in the comfort of our state-of-the-art surgical facility.
We may recommend arthroscopy when the TMJ disorder is more severe. During this procedure, a very small imaging instrument called an arthroscope is inserted into the jaw to visualize the cause of your joint problem better. Once identified, your surgeon may wash out the joint, remove scar tissue, smooth the bone, or reposition the disc based on your specific issue. Finally, a full joint replacement may be necessary when minimally invasive surgeries cannot cure the problem.
Temporomandibular Joint Treatment in Tyler, TX, in Palestine, TX
The oral surgeons at Southern Surgical Arts will work with you and your team of doctors to find a solution for your condition. If you have experienced any of the TMJ symptoms listed above, contact one of our offices today to schedule a consultation appointment and start moving toward recovery. Treating a TMJ disorder is a delicate process, and we want every patient to know that our number one goal is to provide you with a long-term solution.